Atypical Neurotic writes:
This is a revision of a comment I just made on a Facebook post on the topic of marriage equality, specifically on whether opposition (or even skepticism) was prima facie evidence of bad will, if not bigotry, intolerance and hate, and thus deserving of punishment. Even though the battle is won, men and women of all sexual orientations are still being forced to choose sides. Very well. Here goes.
I have been in a Norwegian civil partnership for almost twenty years with the man I fell in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Not once have I ever thought that I was being treated like a second-class citizen simply because the rights and responsibilities attaching to civil partnership were laid down in special legislation rather than in a revision of the Marriage Act. In fact, the Civil Partnership Act gave civil partners most of the rights and all of the responsibilities under the Marriage Act, the relevant sections of which the Civil Partnership Act cited by name in every applicable case.
But even before this law was passed in 1993, same-sex couples had been treated exactly like heterosexual cohabitants without children in common. Exactly. No difference. And this equal treatment was real. Even for the purposes of immigration. That’s why I’m here. All civil partnership did was codify and regularize existing practice. For where it really counts, civil partnership was not “marriage-light”. It was truly marriage. And it was treated as such in all areas of civil society. Just read any insurance contract or pension enrolment form from the civil partnership era. Without exception the list of definitions always contained the clause “Under these Terms and Conditions, ‘spouse’ shall also be understood to mean civil partner under Act No. 40 of 30 April 1993 relating to civil partnership”. Except for the dates in the citation, which I had to Google, I can still rattle off this clause from memory. That’s how often I had to translate it. Civil partnership entailed a serious commitment. Cohabitating couples do not have to petition the county governor for permission to dissolve their households. Civil partners do: division of property, alimony, the whole ball of wax. And the reason for this is that civil partners are automatically each other’s heir intestate and are expected to make painful life decisions like signing commitment papers for a partner who has temporarily lost his mind or giving consent to the doctors to pull the plug when all hope is lost.
In 2009, the Marriage Act was not just amended but completely rewritten in parts to enshrine “full marriage equality” in Norwegian law. The second to last section of the revised act repealed the Civil Partnership Act. Even so, civil partnerships were not automatically dissolved because to do so would have been unconstitutional. Those civil partners who wished for a “marriage-class upgrade” were required to apply specifically for it. We have not done so, and we never will. For one thing, there’s no point. We have all of the responsibilities anyway, and are uninterested in or physically incapable of exercising the additional rights. These all relate to adoption of “exogenous” children and, to put it bluntly, free fertility services paid for by the National Insurance Scheme, i.e. same-sex spouses are treated as infertile couples, because, that, children, is what they are.
I suppose the main reason that we have not petitioned the district court for an upgrade is laziness. But I have an additional reason. Keeping my partnership is my way of signalling my sympathy with the people of good will who wondered whether adding neologisms like “co-mother” and “co-father” to the body of family law was imprudent and might not have unintended consequences, and had the courage to say so. In any case, my partnership was upgraded to marriage in the hearts of those who matter: our families. For example: on her first and only visit to Norway 15 years ago, my devoutly Catholic sister spontaneously and without “air quotes” said to my partner’s sister, “You’re my first sister-in-law that I like”. That continues to mean more to me than any legislation any parliament could possibly pass. And I know for a fact that I can count on my in-laws for any support I may need. They know I’d never ask for it, unless I really had no choice, and they’ve told me so. No matter what my future legal relationship is with their brother, I am still and will always be a loved and honored part of the family. They’ve told me that too, and that’s enough.
My stand should not be construed as disparagement of the choice by others to take the upgrade. Marriage in name as well as fact is deeply meaningful to them, and I know people who have taken the opportinity marriage equality offers them to resolemnize their bond or legally declare their love in the first place. This brings me back to the issue of honor, which the question of same-sex marriage (and all same-sex equality issues) really concerns. In affairs of the heart, justice is just another word for legally sanctioned revenge outsourced to the courts. But honor is sacred. Throughout history, men and women have died for it – and killed for it. I think that I have made my position clear. Barred from any compromise that honored everyone’s legitimate feelings, the avenue that eventually secured marriage equality was the only way for my homosexual brothers and sisters in my ex-homeland to regain their honor. Enough of their fellow citizens of good will took note of the injustice, have agreed with them, and now they have it. Full marriage equality. I continue to maintain that the original sin in this debate was the fact that Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. An honorable man would have had the balls to let it pass over his veto. No guts, no glory. But, then we should not be surprised. The man is a draft-dodger, and an especially disingenuous one at that. Character always tells.
One final note. Please do not label my refusal to obsess over words “internalized homophobia”. This is a serious charge, graver even than calling me a Nazi. As it happens, there is such a thing as internalized homophobia, but it is not refusing to toe the rainbow alphabet soup party line du jour. It means hating the core of your being so deeply that you are incapable giving or receiving true and full intimacy from a person of the sex you despise yourself for so ardently desiring. Anyone who has lived with and loved such a man or woman will know exactly what I am talking about. It’s the closest thing to hell on earth. It is an affliction of the soul far more debilitating than hearing voices, and not just because there is no pill for it. In fact, it’s usually self-medicated with alcohol. So before you accuse me of self-hatred, take a deep breath and count to ten. I don’t hate anybody. There are a lot of people (mostly men) that I hold in contempt, merited for underhanded behavior towards me or people I love. I find them contemptible but I don’t hate them. If I were to give them even a moment’s thought, I suppose what I actually feel for them is pity. If you have read this far and understand where I am coming from, you know that this is far more serious judgment than mere hatred.
Finally, I will not delete any comments, no matter how poisonous. So fire away. Maybe I’ll respond. Probably I won’t. Lest anyone think that I am being a weenie by refusing to engage in “debate”, all I will say is that people who are unable to tell the difference between forbearance and running away from an argument or allowing myself to be a punching bag simply don’t get it.